20

Products Tested

research icon

24

Hours of Research

reviews icon

76

Reviews Examined

Easy-serve espresso pods (ESE pods) make espresso quick and effortless. The only issue is that some ESE pods don't produce great coffee.

I wanted to help homebrewers find the best ESE pods, so I've researched, tried, and tasted all the best brands.

In this guide, I'll introduce the 7 best easy-serve espresso pods to help you make amazing espresso at your convenience.

OUR TOP PICK

Caffe Borbone Single Serve Espresso Pods

Taste

5.0

Size Options

5.0

Value For Money

5.0


Our Score

5.0

CHEAPEST OPTION

Illy Classico ESE Pods Medium Roast

Taste

5.0

Size Options

5.0

Value For Money

4.5


Our Score

4.8

Most Popular

Baronet Coffee
ESE Pods

Taste

5.0

Size Options

4.5

Value For Money

4.5


Our Score

4.6

Espresso is my favorite type of coffee, but it can take a bit of effort to make at home. My espresso maker was gathering dust because I didn't have time to use it.

That's when I discovered ESE coffee pods.

ESE pods are generally all coffee paper pods filled with ground coffee. However, despite the fact they all look the same, there are some distinct differences between brands.

To find the best ESE coffee pods, I began researching the top 30 brands, looking at user feedback and customer reviews to see how they measured up.

This left me with a shortlist of 20 that I tried and tasted.

By comparing the quality, reliability, consistency, and flavor, I narrowed it down to the very best. 

Here are my top 7 ESE pods that will make espresso better than your local coffee shop:

1. Caffe Borbone Single Serve Espresso Pods – Editor’s Choice!

Taste

5.0

Size Options

5.0

Value For Money

5.0


Overall Rating

5.0

Price Per Count

$0.30

Roast Level

Medium

Tasting Notes

Bold and intense with smooth chocolate notes

Region Of Origin

Italy

Bean Type

Arabica and Robusta blend

Caffeine Per Cup

50mg

If you want an espresso at home that tastes exactly like a coffee shop version, these are the ESE pods you need.

The rich and balanced flavor will transport you to Italy and leave you wanting more. Caffe Borbone medium roast pods are compatible with almost every machine and are easy to use. 

The Italian coffee is of higher quality than other brands, and while it doesn’t have the dark notes of the Kimbo pods, it is much easier to drink.

The coffee paper pods are also compostable, so there’s no waste.

What I really love about these easy-serving espresso pods is the thick layer of crema on the top. This really adds to the authenticity and gives it a smooth finish.

The only thing to bear in mind with these pods is that they brew slowly. The filter system takes a while, and it can take 60-70 seconds to make a coffee.

However, you can't rush perfection, and I think this coffee is worth waiting for. This pod is perfect for anyone who wants genuine espresso at home.

Pros

  • Really authentic, high-quality coffee
  • A thick layer of crema
  • Great value
  • Consistent in every pod
  • Compatible with almost every coffee maker

Cons

  • Slow flow; can take over a minute to brew

2. Illy Classico ESE Pods Medium Roast – Good Value

Taste

5.0

Size Options

5.0

Value For Money

4.5


Overall Rating

4.8

Price Per Count

$0.47

Roast Level

Medium

Tasting Notes

Caramel, chocolate, with a slight floral finish

Region Of Origin

Indonesia and India

Bean Type

Blend of Arabica beans

Caffeine Per Cup

60mg

Do you want high-quality Italian coffee that offers value for money?

Let me introduce Illy ESE medium roast pods. The Illy pods produce a well-balanced espresso perfect for everyday drinking and won't break the bank.

Illy ESE pods have a full-bodied flavor with strong chocolate notes. The Indonesian beans add floral spices, giving more complex flavors than the Caffe Gioia or Baronet pods.

However, despite the complexity, this espresso shot doesn't have any rough or bitter edges. These coffee pods are great for easing yourself into the espresso world.

What I really love about these coffee capsules is their freshness.

The high-quality paper pods have a secure foil lid that keeps the Italian espresso fresh for up to 2 years. This gives you confidence that you'll get a full-flavored espresso every time.

My only honest criticism of the Illy ESE pods is crema. Illy pods produce very little smooth crema (unlike the Caffe Borbone pods), and the whole brew lacks that extra richness.

However, this is just my personal preference, and there's no denying that Illy has delivered a delicious Italian espresso drink.

If you want espresso every day without spending a fortune, these are the best pod coffee capsules for you.

Pros

  • Very fresh
  • Consistent taste and quality
  • Affordable
  • Well-balanced and not overpowering

Cons

  • Very little crema
  • Not as intense as other brands

3. Baronet Coffee ESE Pods – Popular Option

Taste

5.0

Size Options

4.5

Value For Money

4.5


Overall Rating

4.6

Price Per Count

$0.55

Roast Level

Medium

Tasting Notes

Rich, full-bodied, with nutty chocolate notes

Region Of Origin

Colombia

Bean Type

Single-origin Arabica coffee beans

Caffeine Per Cup

91mg

I’ve heard and read a lot of positive things about Baronet Coffee ESE pods, so I was excited to try them. They did not disappoint.

Baronet Coffee is rich and strong and perfect for anyone who enjoys distinctive coffee.

Baronet medium roast makes smooth and full-bodied coffee. It's bolder than the Illy Classico medium roast coffee bags, but there's no bitterness in the aftertaste.

It's easy drinking, but experienced coffee lovers will definitely enjoy it more. What I like most about the Baronet medium roast coffee bags is their strength. 

There's a bigger caffeine kick in this Italian espresso than most other brands, and it's actually the strongest on the list.

If, like me, you enjoy a big energy boost in the morning, you'll love these coffee bags.

The only thing I didn't like about these paper pods was the inconsistent sizing. They still fit in the portafilter basket but don't sit flush. Make sure you center them to get the best flavor.

If you enjoy bold, rich-tasting, and flavorsome Italian espresso, these are some of the best coffee pods for you. They are a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it for the flavors.

Pros

  • Strong caffeine kick
  • Bold taste (especially for a medium roast!)
  • Smooth finish
  • Organic and high-quality
  • Completely compostable

Cons

  • Inconsistent sizing - you might have to move it about a bit
  • Slightly more expensive than other brands

4. Kimbo Coffee ESE Espresso Pods

Taste

5.0

Size Options

4.0

Value For Money

4.5


Overall Rating

4.5

Price Per Count

$0.50

Roast Level

Dark

Tasting Notes

Very smooth, with deep dark chocolate notes

Region Of Origin

Central and South America and Asia

Bean Type

A blend of Arabica and Robusta beans

Caffeine Per Cup

60mg

If you love intense espresso coffee, you will love Kimbo ESE pods. This Italian brand knows coffee, and the Kimbo ESE stands out as the boldest on the list.

The dark, intense flavor comes from the dark roast Arabica coffee. It’s richer than the Illy Classico or Caffee Borbone and better for more experienced coffee drinkers.

The smoothness of the coffee surprised me. Many dark roast coffees are harsh or bitter, but Kimbo isn't. There is a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste, but it's barely noticeable.

It's definitely one of the best brands for smooth, powerful coffee. Part of the reason these ESE espresso pods taste stronger is because they actually contain more coffee. 

The pods are fuller than other brands, giving more caffeine, a stronger aroma, and a bolder coffee flavor.

However, the fuller pods can cause some issues. Some users seem to have experienced issues with the pods bursting during brewing.

I had no problems with the individually wrapped paper pods, but you should handle them carefully.

Kimbo combines flavors of Central American and Asian beans with the coffee culture of Naples to create a bold ESE espresso pod. If you love strong espresso, this is the brand I recommend.

Pros

  • Deep, intense flavor
  • Smooth and easy to drink
  • Higher caffeine content
  • 100% Arabica beans

Cons

  • Lower-quality paper pods

5. Lavazza Gran Espresso

Taste

5.0

Size Options

4.0

Value For Money

4.0


Overall Rating

4.3

Price Per Count

$0.45

Roast Level

Medium

Tasting Notes

Smooth, medium-bodied, with chocolate notes and a hint of spice

Region Of Origin

South America

Bean Type

Single-origin Arabica coffee beans

Caffeine Per Cup

45mg

Lavazza has made Italian coffee for 120 years, and their experience shows in these ESE pods. They are rich and authentic, but not overpowering.

They are best for casual coffee drinkers who love espresso at home. The easy-drinking nature of the Lavazza ESE pods is a result of the beans and the process. 

They use Brazilian Arabica coffee beans packed with chocolate flavor and then use an Italian roasting process to bring out the delicate notes of spices within the beans.

This creates a medium roast with a bit more complexity than the Illy Classico or other mainstream brands.

What I love about the Lavazza ESE pods is the quality. The coffee paper pods are sturdier than other brands, and the filter paper keeps the freshness sealed in.

Plus, the pods are consistently sized and compatible with almost every espresso machine.

I also really enjoyed the thick crema.

There isn't as much rich cream as the Caffe Borbone blend, but it's still noticeable. This smooth crema adds sophistication to the drink and makes it even tastier.

Lavazza ESE pods may not produce the boldest coffee, but they offer an interesting blend of flavors at home. If you want well-rounded espresso at your convenience, I recommend this brand.

Pros

  • High-quality coffee paper pods
  • Compatible with most machines
  • Organic coffee and fully recyclable packaging
  • Complex flavor (though not overpowering)

Cons

  • Not as strong as other ESE pods

6. illy Caffe Decaffeinated Coffee Espresso – Best Decaf ESE Pods

Taste

4.0

Size Options

4.0

Value For Money

4.0


Overall Rating

4.0

Price Per Count

$0.83

Roast Level

Medium

Tasting Notes

Rich and sweet, with caramel notes

Region Of Origin

South America

Bean Type

Single Origin Arabica beans

Caffeine Per Cup

1-2mg

If you’re avoiding caffeine or want a blend you can drink in the evening, you’ll love the Illy decaffeinated ESE pods.

There’s no caffeine, but all the quality and taste, and you won’t even notice you’re drinking decaf.

Illy take as much care with their decaffeinated coffee as they do with their regular coffee. They only use 100% South American Arabica beans.

These are rich with sweet flavors of caramel and chocolate and give a flavorful brew.

Illy also takes care to keep the flavors during the decaffeination process. They use the CO2 method, regarded as one of the safest for preserving the integrity of the beans.[1]

This ensures you get a high-quality decaffeinated espresso blend. What I love about this decaffeinated blend is that you can’t even tell the difference. 

The medium-bodied coffee is full of flavor, and while it is milder than the Kimbo pods, it's comparable to the Illy regular blend.

If you want an effortless espresso with all the aroma and flavor but none of the caffeine, this is the brand I recommend.

Pros

  • Tastes just like regular espresso
  • High-quality beans
  • Safe decaffeination to preserve the flavors
  • Compatible with most machines

Cons

  • More expensive than other manufacturers
  • No energy boost (obviously)

7. Caffe Gioia – Best Strong ESE Pods

Taste

4.0

Size Options

3.5

Value For Money

4.0


Overall Rating

3.8

Price Per Count

$0.40

Roast Level

Dark

Tasting Notes

Bold espresso with dark chocolate notes and a slightly bitter aftertaste

Region Of Origin

South America and Asia

Bean Type

A blend of Arabica and Robusta beans

Caffeine Per Cup

45mg

If you enjoy strong, almost harsh coffees, the Caffe Gioia ESE pods will be right up your street. The Gioia mimics the Southern Italian style of coffee with a direct, intense, and robust flavor.

It’s perfect for those who prefer bold coffee drinks.

The bitterness is a result of the Arabica and Robusta bean mix. Gioia uses a 50/50 split of the flavorful Arabica and harsh Robusta beans to create an espresso with a real kick.

It lacks some of the complex flavors that the Lavazza Gran or Caffe Borbone pods, but it’s definitely stronger.

What I admire about the Gioia coffee paper pods is how well the espresso blends.

They are perfect for espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos because the bold flavor cuts through the milk.

If you enjoy a variety of espresso-based drinks, this is the perfect coffee pod.

I would have enjoyed more rich crema on this ESE pod because it would have balanced out the flavor, but that’s just my personal preference.

If you enjoy strong espresso or like making a variety of coffees, this is the brand I recommend.

Pros

  • Bold, intense flavor
  • Perfect for espresso-based drinks (lattes, cappuccinos)
  • Affordable
  • Completely recyclable coffee paper pods

Cons

  • Fairly bitter aftertaste
  • Less caffeine than other brands

What To Look For When Buying ESE Coffee Pods

I've shown you some of the best ESE coffee pods on the market, but if you want to look for yourself, there are a few different factors to look out for:

ESE Pod Size

Standard ESE coffee pods are 44mm in diameter and have 7 grams of pre-measured ground espresso coffee. This is regarded as the 'ESE standard.'[2]

It's enough for one single shot of espresso coffee, and it’s the size you want to look for when buying your ESE pods.

Some ESE coffee pods come in different sizes, but all the best ESE coffee pods listed above are made to an 'ESE standard.'

This means the coffee capsules are the same size and are suitable for most espresso machines.

If your espresso machine can only make a double shot of espresso, you will need a separate one-shot basket to use with the coffee pods.

Compatibility With Machine

This is the most important factor to consider when buying your ESE pods because the coffee pods are useless if they don't work in your machine.

ESE pods will work in almost all modern espresso makers. The only notable exceptions are Tassimo machines, Senseo machines, and Nespresso machines (they use their own Nespresso pods).

All the ESE pods listed above are compatible with a wide range of espresso makers.

However, you should always check the product specifications to ensure compatibility before you buy your ESE pods.

Price Per Count Matters!

On average, ESE pods cost around $0.40-$0.60, but it can vary depending on the brand and the volume you buy the coffee pods.

If you drink a lot of coffee, the ESE pods can add up quickly, so getting a good price is essential.

All the coffee pods listed above offer good value for money. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend the Caffe Borbone or Illy Classico ESE pods.

Making Espresso Using The Caffe Borbone ESE Pods And Coffee Maker

Tasting Notes and Flavors

ESE pods all use espresso coffee, but two pods can be completely different. Variations in coffee bean origin, growing conditions, and roasting level mean there are different tastes.[3]

You should pick pods that match your tastes and let you get the most from your espresso.

Some ESE pods, like the Lavazza Gran Espresso pods, have complex flavor notes, whereas others, like the Caffe Gioia pods, have a bold and robust flavor.

I recommend checking the description of the pods to see the flavor profile and experimenting with different brands until you find the one you enjoy the most.

Check The Roast Level

The roast of the beans is how long they have been roasted for. This impacts the strength, caffeine levels, and flavor.[4]

Light roasts are roasted for the shortest time (usually just a few minutes), whereas dark roasts are roasted for longer (sometimes 20 minutes or more).

ESE coffee pods are only available as a medium or dark roast. Here are the key differences:

  • Medium roast coffee pods are considered the all-around coffee with a balanced flavor profile. They are chocolatey, mellow, and smooth, with a lingering sweetness and less intensity than dark roasts. The shorter roasting period also means they retain more of their caffeine content than dark roasts.
  • Dark roast coffee is rich with a full-bodied flavor and a hint of bitterness. The oils give them a more pronounced flavor than medium roasts, but they contain less caffeine.

If you like rich, dark espresso, I recommend the Kimbo coffee pods. If you prefer a lighter, more relaxed espresso, I recommend the Caffe Borbone or Lavazza Gran Espresso coffee pods.

Caffeine Levels

ESE coffee pods typically contain 40-70mg of caffeine in a serving and are slightly weaker than a typical espresso made with your own beans.

Standard espresso is made with 6-9 grams of coffee per shot. ESE coffee pods only contain 7 grams of coffee, giving the espresso a lower overall caffeine content.

However, you can still get some stronger ESE coffee pods on the market, and if you want a bigger caffeine boost, I recommend the Baronet pods.

Variety In Pods

One thing I love about ESE pods is the variety they can offer. Unlike regular espresso coffee, where you buy a bag of one flavor, you can choose a variety pack of ESE pods.

These contain coffee made using different beans with distinct flavors of that region.

A variety pack, like the Black Donkey Coffee Roasters variety pack, is best for those who love different blends.

It's also an inexpensive way for beginners to experiment with a few blends and determine which they like the most.

Inserting Illy Classico ESE Pod To Coffee Maker

Why Bother Using ESE Pods? (Benefits Explained)

Wondering why to buy ESE coffee pods? The answer is simple -convenience.

Here’s why people like you and me are switching out regular ground coffee for ESE coffee pods:

Faster Coffee

ESE coffee pods are more time-efficient than regular coffee in your espresso machine because there’s no prep time. You don’t need to grind the coffee beans, measure the coffee, or tamp it.

Just put the ESE coffee pod in the espresso machine and brew.

Making regular coffee with espresso machines could take 5-10 minutes per cup, but using ESE coffee pods will take under 60 seconds.

No Clean Up

Espresso machines are great, but they can make a lot of mess.

The roasted and ground espresso beans can spill on the counter, and if you don't load the coffee grounds properly, it can cause leaks.

Plus, you have to empty the filter paper and remove the freshly ground coffee after you’ve used the espresso machine - which can create even more mess.

With ESE coffee pods, there's no mess and much less waste.

Everything is contained within the ESE coffee pods. You can just slot them into the espresso machine, brew, and throw them away when you're done.

Most ESE pods, like the Baronet and Caffe Borbone, are recyclable, too, and don't generate any waste.

Excellent Espresso Every Time

It can be hard to brew consistently using espresso machines, especially if you are new to coffee making.

Grinding the beans and measuring the ground espresso takes skill, and even slight variations can change the taste and consistency.

ESE coffee pods take all the guesswork out of the equation because everything is one single pod. That means ESE espresso pods will give you the same espresso every time.

If you enjoy consistent coffee, I recommend the Caffe Borbone ESE coffee pods because the coffee is roasted to give the same flavor every time.

Freshness Guaranteed

Pre-ground coffee can go stale quickly. In fact, once the ground coffee is open, it will usually only last 4-6 weeks. That can mean you're frequently throwing away your own coffee grounds.

ESE coffee pods stay fresh for longer. The small plastic cup, foil seal, and outer packaging keep the coffee in the ESE pods fresh, and it will be good for over 12 months.

Some manufacturers, like Lavazza Gran Espresso pods, will even keep the freshness for 2-3 years.

Isolated ESE Pods

How To Use ESE Coffee Pods For Quick Espresso At Home

ESE coffee pods are designed to make espresso easy, and they really do. In fact, they can make espresso in just 5 easy steps:

  1. 1
    Place the ESE pod into your portafilter
    Start by placing the ESE pod into your portafilter like you would with ground coffee. Most espresso machines have a specific filter basket your pod should fit into.
    Center the ESE pods as much as possible to get the most flavorful espresso coffee.
  2. 2
    Attach the portafilter holder to the espresso machine
    Attach the filter holder containing the ESE pod to the espresso machine by rotating your filter holder to the right. It should align with the symbol on the coffee maker and snap into place.
  3. 3
    Brew your espresso
    Place your cup or mug under the filter and start the brew cycle. Automatic espresso machines will have a button, but a manual espresso machine needs to be pumped to achieve the right pressure level. High-pressure hot water will pass through your ESE pod, and your fresh espresso coffee should brew in 30-60 seconds.
  4. 4
    Let the filter cool
    Leave the ESE coffee pod in the filter for a few minutes to cool down. Taking the filter off too early may cause spillages.
  5. 5
    Dispose of the pod
    Remove the filter and lift the single-serve pods from the pressurized filter basket. Recycle it (or throw it in the trash) and enjoy your fresh coffee.
Caffe Borbone ESE Pods Miscela Blu

Related ESE Coffee Pod Questions

Are ESE pods environmentally friendly?

Most ESE coffee pods are environmentally friendly. The ESE coffee paper pods are fully compostable and can be used to enrich your garden.

Which pods are best for De'Longhi machines?

DeLonghi coffee machines are compatible with ESE pods, Nespresso capsules, and a range of third-party coffee pods. This amazing range of choices means you can brew using the coffee you enjoy the most.

Are ESE pods compatible with Nespresso?

No, you can’t use ESE pods in Nespresso machines.

So, Which ESE Pod Should You Buy?

All the coffee pods on the list make delicious, convenient espresso. However, the Caffe Borbone espresso pods are a cut above.

The high-quality coffee (roasted in small batches), versatility of the pod, and competitive price point make them the obvious option.

Even in a cheap coffee maker, they’ll produce rich-tasting coffee.

However, everyone has different preferences, and you can’t go wrong with any of these pods. I hope you have fun trying and tasting a few options.

Our #1 ESE Pods For Home

Taste

5.0

Size Options

5.0

Value For Money

5.0


Overall Rating

5.0

References: 

1.https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/everyday-chemistry/0/steps/22338
2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easy_Serving_Espresso_Pod
3.https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-coffee
4.https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/6/2/29

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

See Our Editorial Processes

Meet Our Team

Share Feedback

Leave a Comment